EPISODE REVIEW: Gotham S4 EP13 ‘A Beautiful Darkness’

As Ivy investigates Wayne Enterprises’ mysterious Project M, Penguin struggles in Arkham Asylum as he is subjected to a multitude of humiliating tasks at the hands of Jerome. Meanwhile, a poisoned Bruce is at home alone, hallucinating friends, family, and a caped figure cloaked in shadow.

Writer: Tze Chun
Director: John Stephens

What You Need To Know:
Betrayed by Victor Zsasz and Sofia Falcone, and declared to be mentally unstable, Oswald Cobblepot was thrown into Arkham, where he met Jerome Valeska, who offered to work with him. Selina Kyle partnered up with Ivy Pepper after Ivy’s latest power-up, where she promised to take care of Selina the way that Selina had always taken care of her. Bruce Wayne had fired Alfred Pennyworth and had gone on an extended bender, partying it up and taking nothing seriously. Meanwhile, Sofia Falcone and Jim Gordon are at odds regarding her plans for Gotham’s criminal underworld versus his for cleaning up Gotham and keeping it safe.

What You Will Find Out:
Ivy is on the hunt for the location of a mysterious substance labeled Project M, and she’s using her newly developed powers and newfound confidence to make headway in her search, even if she’s lying to old friend Selina Kyle as she does it. Selina believes that they’re just hitting up a rich person’s home to steal from them, but while the cat’s away upstairs stealing, Ivy’s in the dining room, using her pheromone perfume to make everyone watch and obey her as she gets some information about Project M out of a Wayne Enterprises scientist. The information is enough to lead her to Bruce Wayne, and as a parting gift, she kills the scientist while his family is forced to watch. Selina, angry at Ivy because the killing was never part of the deal, stomps off.

Shrugging it off as she seems to – Ivy gets more and more ruthless with people – she finds her way to Wayne Manor, where Bruce Wayne is being woken up by his parrot, only to find Ivy waiting for him. Bruce catches onto the fact that this woman is the same Ivy Pepper he’d known and didn’t quite love, but before he can do anything more with that information, Ivy’s kissed him and scratched him, sending him into hallucination city. Unlike her last victim, she wants Bruce to suffer, so she’s made sure that this will be a slow, agonizing death.

The information that Ivy’s gotten from Bruce leads her to Lucius Fox, who she also entrances with her pheromones so that she can find the location of Project M. Lucius leads her to it, of course, and Ivy discovers that Project M isn’t killing plants as she thought it was. It turns out that Project M is an experiment on life-giving Lazarus water. Finding an immediate use for it, Ivy practically skips off with the Lazarus water, though not without a little stand-off between herself and Jim Gordon. Once she’s alone, Ivy mixes some of the Lazarus water with her newly empowered blood, creating an ultra-fast blooming flower that’s sure to wreak havoc across Gotham City.

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While Ivy roams free in Gotham City, enchanting everyone she can as she successfully tries to track down Project M, Oswald Cobblepot is trapped in Arkham Asylum, decidedly not having the time of his life. Sure, Jerome may have promised to help Oswald when last we saw him, but now he and his lackeys are just picking on Oswald, who has already hit rock bottom one too many times. Oswald’s forced to do clown dances and the like to entertain Jerome and make him laugh, though this only urges Oswald to get the last laugh as he ultimately leads Jerome into a miming act where he beats up his bully. Oswald is, after all, an incredibly violent person and it never takes much to push him over the edge.

Sofia still seems to be trying to pull strings behind the scenes of Gotham. She wants to rule the underworld and also have Jim Gordon in her back pocket, but that’s not the sort of thing that Jim Gordon takes lightly to, even if she did help him become Captain. Sofia’s already friendly with one of Jim’s exes in Barbara, but now that Jim won’t cooperate with Sofia, she’s decided to get close to her sister-in-law, Lee Thompkins.

Gotham-4x13-2

Meanwhile, Bruce lays alone in Wayne Manor, hallucinating a Great Gatsby-esque party at his home. The dream is something of a spiritual journey for him that eventually leads him to envision a very familiar shadowy figure who sets Bruce back on the path he had started on when his parents died – one of vengeance and of protecting Gotham. Ironic though it seems, Bruce may just have Ivy to thank for his aesthetic once he actually becomes the Batman. Cured by Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, who had gotten the antidote from Ivy, Bruce reaches out to Alfred, realizing that he has to change his ways.

What Just Happened?:
Though definitely a weaker outing than last week’s midseason premiere, A Beautiful Darkness seems intent on setting up some interesting plot threads, as well as dropping hints (some very obvious, others less so) on where the rest of this season is headed.

One of the brightest spots of the episode is Peyton List as Poison Ivy. It sort of makes sense that a girl who had once been a quiet wallflower would use her newfound power and beauty to get validation about her looks from the people she’s controlling. More than that, though, she’s also delightfully vicious in her search for Project M, though what she’s planning now that she knows the mysterious project was about Lazarus water is anyone’s guess. There’s definitely a unique sort of synergy going on between her story in this episode and the current storyline going on in the Batman comic by Tom King, where Ivy has practically taken over the whole world with her powers.

Sofia – shockingly one-note suddenly, because of course nuance has left her once we discover she’s a villain through and through – reaching out to Lee is meant to be a threat to Jim Gordon, but this could very well be the first time that Jim doesn’t need to worry about a loved one being threatened. By now, Lee has been through a lot, and she’s definitely grown something of a backbone. Being the new leader of the Narrows puts her in a position of power in Gotham as well, and so Sofia could very well end up in trouble if she tries to mess with Lee too much.

They’re clearly, obviously pushing Bruce towards Batman with his visions this week, especially with the faceless caped figure in his hallucinations, who was missing the familiar pointy ears on the cowl to really make the image complete. Of course, he did burst into a bunch of little bats, so clearly Bruce’s subconscious is telling him something.

Recently, in interviews, the creators of the show have made it a point to say that Jerome is not the man who ultimately becomes the Joker. Instead, this episode seems to hint that the show might take a very different direction. From the opening moments of the storyline, where Jerome throws a Joker card at Oswald, to Oswald forcibly dressing up in a clown costume, to Oswald owning the clown act and beating Jerome with it, it seems as though they’re heavily hinting that Oswald himself may transform into the Joker. Nothing is more damning than the line that Jerome says to Oswald, “I’m going to find that entertaining guy I know is inside you.” Could Jerome possibly bring that guy out and transform Oswald into the Joker? Gotham wouldn’t be the first series to conflate two characters into one – look at how Once Upon a Time has mixed characters together into one – and Oswald has always had a vicious, violent streak that’s seemed to suit the Joker more than the Penguin. Only time will tell on this one.

Rating: 6/10

Final Thoughts: Though not as strong an outing as the mid-season premiere, Gotham is still more confident than it has been in the past, and the characters are clearly being pushed towards a specific goal in mind, one which pushes the characters closer to their canonical comic counterparts, even as it hints at some unexpected twists along the way.

Gotham airs on Fox on Thursday nights. Check your local listings for times.


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